Thursday, February 26, 2009

Heart To Heart

I salam Dad, kissed his right cheek and waved goodbye.

As I left, I could see his hands waving back at me in the darkened room until after I turned the corner and out the door.

I was the last person to bid Dad goodbye. The rest of my siblings and Mom were already at the waiting area outside Ward 48, ready to go home to rest our minds after the shocking news.

Earlier, the admin process was done without a hitch. Dad, already changed and on the hospital bed and the doctor on duty had already came and examined him. Now it is up to the doctors to help make Dad better.

I sent an urgent SMS message to my boss, informing her of my urgent leave off work tomorrow to finalize the admin with the hospital's business office and to meet with the heart specialist in the afternoon.

"... Go ahead.... Take care." Was her accommodating reply.

Dad has been admitted to hospital due to a clot in his heart detected in the CT Scan. It was done on him only yesterday.

"Hello Imran, I'm Dr. Ong." the caller introduced himself from a number not familiar to me, "It's about your father...." My heart was racing. It should be something urgent to have called my cell phone instead of at the appointed consultation this Friday.

See the strange number 643681... I was ready to say "No thank you, I'm not interested." To whomever that was on that line asking me to buy an insurance of some sort because it is important for my future.

Instead I was listening to Dr. Ong explaining to me about what he and Dad's Oncologist Dr. Lo had found and what they wanted me to do promptly to not loose any more time...

"We detected a clot in his heart," Dr. Ong explained, "so your father needs to be admitted immediately for the heart specialist to help him."

The heart? We were concentrating on the tumors in his lungs. The tumor is suppose to at worst, stay the same size as the last scan or with prayers answered has shrunk! The heart?!

That explained the tingling feeling he had been having just after he started his 3rd Chemo cycle. He had that feeling consistently, varying in intensity, but at times too intense that he had to pound his left shoulder hard, Mom said.

Both Dr. Ong and Dr. Lo wanted to admit Dad immediately, so I was asked the ward class I wanted to put Dad in...

I had to call Wifey and Elder Sis to confirm that it was B2 Class - 6 bedded and without air-con. Yes, that was it, no air-con, Dad hates air-con and the fan too. He likes natural breeze just like when we were living in the kampong.

"I've left the Inpatient Admin form at the Nurse's Station," Dr. Ong called again after I confirmed with him the ward class, a speedy 5 minutes after, "I'll be here if you can bring you father early... you can get the form from the nurse and proceed to the business office to admit him without the hassle of going through A&E first."

Once my Elder Sis was told, she contacted the rest and quickly made arrangements for Second Sis' husband to get Dad off to the hospital. Promptly and efficiently done, as if like it was rehearsed before. I was proud of her.

I had the task to gently disclosing the bad news to my parents, knowing how Mom would over react and become upset and that would set Dad to be panicky and sad too.

"We have to think of what is best for Dad now." I explained to Mom with a firm voice over the phone, "He needs to be at the hospital as a precaution... the doctor knows what to do." I had to explain further because both my old folks hate hospitals, much less being warded.

Mom sobering over the phone and had calmed down somewhat. With a short pause and steady voice she asked, "What do you want us to do?" Good. That was the right question. She was cooperating so we could proceed to bring Dad to the hospital...

Look it that. A rainbow...

I saw a huge and beautiful rainbow while waiting for Dad to arrive at the hospital.

It must be a good sign from the heavens...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Care To Share

Today was a fun-filled day for all three of us.

It was Care and Share Day 2009 at Sonny's school, Dunman Secondary School. A fun fair event to raise funds for the needy students and their families, especially important now more than ever, with the gloomy economy.

Today started off very early for all of us. Wifey woke us up and one by one we took our baths, got ready and left our home ten minutes to seven. Packed with poles and props, stationary and other stuff, we really stopped traffic packing the cab full and headed for the school.

At the school, Sonny went his separate way to be with the Traffic Police Exhibition and photo-taking stall. I saw him walked off with confidence... his haversack slung on his shoulder while carrying an extra LCD monitor in the other hand, making his way to his Photo Booth located near the school's General Office.

He spent the entire day super-imposing photos taken there with customized frames he designed especially for the fair over several days before. We named this stall "You've Been Framed!" Complete with advert poster and the many frames catalogs the customers to choose from, posted on the exhibition stand.

The whole basketball court was already alive and buzzing with students giving final touches to their own food and games stalls... we were competing with our young competitors for the visitors' dollars... a dollar for a coupon.

Wifey and I continued setting-up the 4 games stalls which we already done most the evening before. It was a very proud feeling to be able to realize our games from concept to the ones sprawled in front of us across the court, ready to receive visitors to play.

We pretty much got all stalls set-up according to the concept as we envisioned, except for the two portable whiteboards we asked for were a little disappointing...

One was only 5 instead of 8 feet to stick our 7 feet "Stick 'Em Up" game board. We had to improvise with what we got immediately, and we got it working for us.

Another was 8 feet as requested, but turned out to be not magnetic friendly enough after we set it up.

Our "Ancient Puzzlers" pictures with magnetic strips at the back was not able to stick to the white board well as it did at home and at the school's conference room boards when we tried them. Yikes!

We resorted to laying the 3 puzzles on a student desk each to play the game instead.

The white board became just a display panel for the game stall and prizes. Fortunately we were able to avoid a disaster. Phew!

The fair was to start at 9:00AM, but by 8:30AM many visitors had already arrived and were browsing through the many stalls. A very good and effective marketing effort on the part of the school that impressed both Wifey and I.

Wifey's "Hooked-On Fishing" stall started off first a good 20 minutes before 9:00AM since several parents and students already asked to play.

I noticed our "MARBLEous P!cks" stall, tended by another DSP parent had also opened for business before the fair officially started too. It was very encouraging.

These two games stalls proved to be a big hit with the visitors. It turned our to be the busiest throughout the day!

I noticed Wifey and a DSP parent were always busy with the continuous flow of people wanting to play the fishing game.

They had students, kids and parents with their young children actually queuing to play the game while a large crowd gathered around the stall.

The most hectic was around lunch time.

I took over from the DSP parent partnering Wifey until after the fair was over at 3:00PM. Throughout that time, the stall had people queuing to play.

Amid all that chaos, Wifey had a cool head and did an excellent job of remembering each player's turn in the queue.

Yes, it looked crowded, chaotic and exhausting, but it was pure fun. We skipped our lunch just like last year, simply because did not feel hungry. Instead we enjoyed the interaction and were overwhelmed by the response people had with our fishing game .

The same was the situation at the marble-picking-with-chopstick game stall I noticed. I just hope they got to take their lunch... but from their expressions, they were having as much fun as we were.

As interesting a day it was today, something equally pleasant happened too. I met my local blog-reader face to face at the fair. The first one in my blogging life!

She was a Dunmanite and an Alumni who has been supporting the school with its activities since she graduated. She found my blog while searching for the keyword "Dunmanites" and has been following my blog since, but has never commented before.

We briefly chatted until Wifey hollered for help.

From our short conversation, I have an instinctive feeling that this beautiful and intelligent young lady has a bright and successful future ahead of her. Just hope she will leave a comment one of these days.

We are so grateful to our DSP Teacher, Mrs. Fong and the passionate school's principle Mrs Neo for taking care of the DSP parents with their personal attention during the event. They brought us drinks and lifted our spirits from time to time... always with those big, appreciative smiles. It made our efforts even more worth while.

After weeks of late nights creating and making props and running around competing with the neighbourhood Ah Peks scavenging for discarded carton boxes at the dumpsters... coupled with many weekends spent going from one shop to another looking for the right props and stuff to realize our proposals... the fun fair was truly the highlight of our efforts for a good cause.

We do not ask anything in return, but just smiles and joy we see from the receiving end.

As far as I am concern, it has been time well spent with my family together in a creative project. Bringing our ideas into reality, but really more of strengthening the family bond one completed prop at a time.

We were a minute part in the entire huge effort to make the school's event a wonderful experience for everyone. An event for a worthy cause, everyone hoping to make the lives of the less fortunate a little better.

As for me, my family reaped the benefits a little sooner... being together as a family, feeling the bond between us getting stronger as during the creative process, all the way culminating to actual event.

It was fun and beneficial to everyone involved. We are looking forward to more such events in the future.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dad's The Way

Finally, Dad complained about his medication.

The third cycle seemed too much for him, event though it had the same dosage as the last two cycles of 800mg of Capecitabine twice a day for two weeks.

He was complaining of being nausea and the tingling feeling, at times quite intense like pins and needles around his left shoulder region whenever he took the medication.

The lightheadedness would disappear some hours later after he slept it off, but the numbness and tingling feeling never fade away.

"My Dad says he wants to change the medication." I told Dr. Lo this afternoon after describing to her what Dad had been feeling since his third Chemo cycle started.

"His CA marker has risen to 50" she told me in English not wanting for Dad to understand, "it was 47 the last time."

I realized my eyebrows rose, the usual try-to-keep-cool face "Little fluctuations is not a cause for worry." She assured me. I was still digesting that information, then she continued, "That means we have stabilized the C." Replacing the dreaded word "cancer."

"No medicine for you this time, OK Pakcik." She told Dad in Malay. A gallant effort to keep that uncle of a patient at ease, "we go for CT scan next week, OK?" Looking at Dad.

Dad just nodded and turned to me expectantly. Dad gave a faint smile when I told him that he does not have to take he medication tomorrow, but going for the "X-Ray like before, remember?"

We were out from the Consultation Room 7 less than 10 minutes, but had to wait this time almost an hour from our 3:20PM appointed time.

After payment at Clinic C, I rushed to the Pharmacy for Dad's cough medicine and asked him to wait for his name to be called while I rushed again to B2 to Imaging Reception to get him his appointment for the scan.

Dad is set to go for the scan this coming Tuesday, 24th February 2009 at 1:20PM and see Dr. Lo again on Friday, 27th February.

"We'll see if the growth has gotten smaller..." she explained to me, "if it is, then we should continue with his chemo." I just nodded.

"We'll investigate the nausea and tingling feeling on his shoulder with the CT scan first."

This time around, my elder Sis came along, together with her husband and their teenage daughter, my second eldest Brother was there too fetching Dad and Mom for this appointment. The whole "Kampong" or village was at Clinic C it seemed.

Dad was obviously beaming with joy and was talkative... making jokes and teasing Mom at times. I have to admit that it was not a tense time this time waiting for the blood test result to be revealed by the doctor.

The fact that many family members were there made the entire predicament less of an issue. Showing love by just being there is most powerful feeling of strength... maybe even to a man in his death bed to face whatever is to come.

Everyone left National Cancer Centre in my Brother's car... off to a family dinner-out, while I rushed on the opposite direction to Sonny's school. But first, headed home to get Wifey and all the poles and props we made to set up the four Games Booths for tomorrow's Care and Share Day 2009.

An event we look forward to, to have lots of fun for a worthy cause. The school is raising funds to help the needy students and their families... but that's another happy story with lots of happy photos, definitely.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Darkest Before Dawn

Today is Friday 13th.

A bad day for the superstitious; a gruesome reminder for the movie buffs and just a one unlucky number for the oriental people... and many, many more bad stuff if one wants to think of any.

I am not superstitious, nor have I thought this date has any significance at all. Yes, the movie was scary, but that is just about it... until today.

My boss called me into the meeting room this afternoon. She had some serious matters to discuss with me at HR. It was about our jobs, the people under my charge.

After a lengthily opening and justifications and what not, it came to the nitty-gritty of what the meeting was for... there are simply not enough jobs for everyone as each day goes by. There is no job security for my people and me included... lay-offs are in the cards, only when.

Since we are still needed for now to do the fast diminishing jobs, the eventual people that have to go will need to be identified. Objectively, I went through with my boss the different scenarios until the very inevitable of practically nothing left to do.

The company has lots to do, but just not in Singapore. This place has become just like any developed country... too expensive for manufacturing activities. So our jobs go to the lower-cost country by choice - our neighbor, Malaysia.

At one third the cost and the deepening financial crisis already presenting itself here, the rate of our jobs being transferred there is lightning fast. By next week, many of our projects would have been safely transferred. And by next month, many of us will be staring at the walls at work.

As much as I think I know how it felt for the people in the US and Germany where I had gone to move the projects here, it is my turn now to experience job loss for real. It is inevitable and I realize that, but I only hope for a far and just compensation package for the years of dedication and loyalty, for my hard work I have put in for the company for the last 17 years.

From the stages and scenarios we went through, it is obvious that the first few people identified will have to go first... that included me. It was not suppose to be my turn yet, but I took the spot in replacement of my assistant.

Yeah, it is stupid to be heroic when well-paying jobs are now scarce, but I just cannot live with myself if I have to let him go.

Besides his loyalty and support to me, he has more financial burden over him than I do. He needs this job more than ever since he has some health problems that may not fair well in interviews with a younger, healthier and much more cheaper, fresh graduates.

Having a baby and a child that has started schooling, having a wife that is an only child, his mother-in-law is staying with them after her husband recent passing, he has more mouths to feed and a steady uninterrupted income, is the way to go.

Tonight, I told Wifey about it and what I did.

She was silent and showed no emotion at first. Most probably trying to find the right words to say. Most probably she was fuming inside for my actions... I should protect my family first?

"What do you intend to do?" She asked after a long pause.

We know we have enough reserves to live for many months without income, we know we do not owe any dept on our home or any credit cards... we know we can down-scale our living and be prudent with our spending to tie us over and ride the storm safely, but why the sacrifice?

We have this plan of opening our own little shop, we tried it and it was fruitful, but the plan is not feasible during this economic downturn. No demand, so why supply?

I do not know, but I know we can survive this and come up better as a family than we have ever been. I truly just know it!

"I'm thinking of taking up some courses," I answered, "several of them that the government is heavily subsidizing... spanning over 3 to 6 months."

Wifey looked interested to know more...

"Why don't you join me?" I suggested to her.

Since I wish to get out of the dwindling manufacturing industry, I am thinking of switching to another career path that will eventually make us open our own shop one day but selling a commodity that is far-reaching and in demand. Something that we both like to do.

"Show me more..." Wifey replied, interested.

We need to plan. All plans have risks, rather calculated than forging blindly. It may not be an easy path, but we have to journey through it.

It will be darkest before dawn, but there will be light and a new day... God willing, an even brighter light, an even brighter day.

Like today is the dreaded Friday the 13th, but tomorrow is for love - February 14th, Valentine's... the true test for us lies in the days to come.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Raining, Man!

No! Not muscle hunks like the song goes... I do not understand that song anyway.

But yes! It rained heavily yesterday evening for a good hour!

I have never been so glad to see rain, complete with thunder and lightning so much as far as I can recall. I have always been a sunny-kind-of-person... sun, sand and sea guy.

The rain has somewhat given a reprieve actually from the drawn-out dry days we have been having here in Singapore. In fact, the news reported that this month has seen hotter days than other February months in the last 10 years.

And with it came over a hundred bushfire in forested areas across the island. Fortunately, not as massive and devastating as what Australia is experiencing now with over 300 deaths.

Strangely though, the nights have been much cooler and windy than normal days that made many locals not having to switch on their air-conditioners to sleep. This family for one does not use air-con and even resorted to covering ourselves with blankets to sleep.

Dark clouds gathered in the sky when I looked out of my bedroom window this morning. The weatherman says there will be rain for the rest of the week, but judging from the past few weeks, that guy has not been doing a good job with his predictions.

No. I do not blame the weatherman, I cannot really think of anyone to blame.

I think it is the course of nature. Mother earth repairing herself from the ravages of human consumption. Some extreme weather phenomenon experienced throughout the globe and taking with her many precious lives unfortunately. Yet, heal herself she must, to restore balance again from time to time.

Here, the first two months of the year have been mostly cloudy but with hardly any rainfall at all. So cloudy that it has hampered a good sighting of another phenomenon... the lunar eclipse on 26th January.

It would have been interesting to witness and take some shots with heavy filters...

Anyway, I am very happy that it rained yesterday.

On my way back from work last evening, I was conciously happy to feel the rain drops on my skin as I walked from the bus stop to my home.

It felt as if the trees and grasses gave thanks to the heavens for the rain that poured and quenched the thirst long endured during the draught.

I saw two birds bathing in a puddle of water at the side of the road. Happy birdies, the ones not perished in the many bushfire incidents here just this month alone.

The weatherman says it is going to rain. I hope he is right and I intend to help him with prayers for more rain. Oh yes, that rain dance did the trick too. So thanks to SisSTAR from all the way across the globe, for making it happen here.

All I need to do is get some tips from her to make my own rain...

Monday, February 09, 2009

Then It's Me

Wifey coughs lots.

She even had to postpone her follow-up medical at Changi General Hospital to avoid the doctor increasing or maybe add on other medication for her condition.

She has been seeing the specialist at the hospital routinely for her asthma condition, but the flu has made her coughed out phlegm even more. This has been going on for almost 2 weeks.

Her insistence of not wanting to see a doctor has got something to do with what Sonny got late Saturday evening.

We were woken-up by him that night, saying that his head was like a throbbing bubble. He was running a temperature. Wifey made him take shower and Panadol before he could go back to sleep until in the morning.

I took him to the Yoong Family Clinic at Tampines St 33 on Sunday morning. He had a temperature of 38.2 Degrees Celsius when the doctor checked.

Sonny was complaining of throbbing headache and muffled hearing, bad sore throat and runny nose... common cold symptom.

"Mama gave me this sickness." Sonny uttered while he was taking his medication at MacDonald's after we had our breakfast. In my heart, I somewhat agreed with him... prolonging her sickness, we were bound to get infected too.

Looking at him soundly asleep in his room, it was a relief when Sonny finally said that his headache was gone whe he woke up for lunch. He was not feverish anymore as before several hours after taking the medicine, but the throat still hurt.

That was yesterday...

By Sunday night, I was feeling uncomfortable myself. Just like Wifey and then Sonny, I got the symptoms too, though mild but it was working its intensity very fast as the day progressed.

I was coughing badly at night and into the wee hours of the morning too. I could not get a good night's sleep because of the cough that kept me and Wifey now awoke.

By the time the alarm clock rang this morning, I had a bad headache as soon as I felt my throat was dry and painful. Yep. Got it full blown today.

I am on medical leave today after consulting Dr. Philip Koh at Healthway Tampines Clinic at Block 710. Just like Sonny who in fact, got 2 days medical leave off school due to his fever.

Wifey is going "cold turkey" and roughing it through... no idea why she rather endures that, but this home is off limits to any visitors for the next few days.

So do we have the Monday blues? You bet!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Where's The Rain?

I am human.

I have always loved sunny days... the light that gives life and that makes me feel alive inside out.

Yet, too much sun and no rain makes for a very dry season. We have not had rain for the past two weeks and in fact having a record high temperature that has made the beautiful turfed grasses turned dry and brown, flowering bushes wilting and tall shady trees shedding leaves.

It has been one of our driest season yet. And with it came sporadic wildfires island-wide too.

I chanced upon such wildfires last Friday when youngest brother was sending me home in his car.

It was close to home, at the grassland along Tampines Avenue 10... where I love to cycle to be close to nature. Fortunately, the fire did not spread over to the dirt-bike track, stopped by the fast response by the SCDF fire-fighters.

This stretch of grassland has been known to get wildfires on many previous dry seasons before. A sanctuary for birds, but become a potential fire hazard once dry season comes.

All these years that I have been living in Tampines, through many instances of such, this is the only time I got to witness the smoldering fire and the fire-fighters in action.

It was quite cool to watch the whole thing, but I kept thinking of the poor birds and the nests in the grassland... the eggs and chicks engulfed in the fire.

I told Wifey about the fire that was just 2 blocks away from our flat when I got back home.

"No wonder it was badly hazy," Wifey replied, almost like a revelation, "I had to close the windows because it was uncomfortable to breathe."

Wifey mistook the smoke from the wildfire for the smoke that will come when the Chinese folks burn long stalks of sugarcane and paper hell money as offerings to their ancestors. A ritual to send these souls back to heaven after the festivities of Chinese New Year come to a close... or something to that effect if I have my facts right.

Being a tolerant Muslim neighbor and those not of this faith, we will normally close all the windows during such days to avoid the flying soot and choking smoke coming into our homes and dirty our curtains and sofas. Taken positively, the smoke deters mosquitoes.

Anyway, there are not many a times that I have uttered this, but where is the rain already?!